Who Let the Dogs Out?
Those of you familiar with this tune by Baha Men probably have it stuck in your heads already! It was a great song in 2000 and a dozen years later it’s still a great song! I don’t know the band’s history, the creative juices, or whether they are animal lovers or not. But I have a story to share that includes eight animal loving groups, dedicated personnel and passionate volunteers.
Part One—Getting Started.
I’ll focus this blog on the early meetings and follow-up with a second blog on the work-in-progress.
During late April 2012, John Annis, VP of Community Investment at the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, forwards an e-mail to me from an executive of a Sarasota-based animal welfare group. He asks if this is something that might be of interest to The Patterson Foundation:
…….I spoke with Scarlett O’Hara (the name has been changed to protect the innocent) at The Community Foundation about a facilitator to help with a difficult meeting. There is much to be done and someone needs to start the dialogue. We need a neutral third party to make this happen. Thank you for your consideration, and please let me know your thoughts.
We agreed and these groups came to the table: Animal Rescue Coalition, Cat Depot, Humane Society of Sarasota County, Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office Animal Services, Sarasota in Defense of Animals, St. Francis Animal Rescue, Suncoast Humane Society and the Venice Cat Coalition. (Note: There are many animal welfare groups in our area and this group will change over time. However, these groups comprise the core organizations.)
Animal welfare can be a taxing business. Emotions run high and burn-out occurs if you’re in it for any length of time. Most folks I know (me included) treat pets like family members but not everyone feels tender and loving toward animals. The Great Recession has not been so kind to the many individuals and families who had no options for their pets when jobs and savings evaporated. A hard job got harder. I have great respect for those in the field.
Four facilitated meetings with the eight organizations have focused on identification of various components:
• Organizational overview — Operating budget; staff and volunteer numbers; services; and, top 2012 goal. This information allowed each organization to view the capacity for animal welfare operations and services. One organization is in a position to grow and the others are either status quo or struggling to close the operating cost gap. Collectively, these eight are pretty impressive:
Annual Budgets: $4,823,000
Full Time Employees: 81
Part Time Employees: 26
• Concerns about working together — Lack of trust; unprofessional behavior (negative e-mails; misinformation (sharing/loaning equipment, no-kill statistics); and, inconsistent/inaccurate communications.
• Something personal about each person — A sampling of their diversity–former college tennis star, a horse lover, a retired RN, a newly licensed mental health counselor and a prankster born on April 1st!
• Gaps — Communications, data and policy.
At each meeting—and in between meetings—time is allocated and focused on communications and trust issues. I hope the groups participating in the session agree that they ‘aren’t there yet’, but things are definitely better. It will take time, but I sense changes in latitude and changes in attitude!
My next blog will focus on work-in-progress: goals and action plans.
Do you know examples of animal welfare groups that have come together?